Chaperoned by the army, the National Guard and state police, people who fled a small Zacatecas town last year due to violence returned to their erstwhile houses last Thursday.
But their stay was a short one – they weren’t back for good but rather to collect the possessions they left behind when they escaped in haste in early 2021.
Former residents of Palmas Altas, a community in the municipality of Jerez, returned to their old homes to pick up furniture, home appliances, tools, toys, sacks of grain and even tractors, according to a report by Reforma.
Hundreds of people had just six hours to pack up what they wanted, the newspaper said. Palmas Altas has been a virtual ghost town since the majority of residents left due to violence related to a turf war between the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) and the Sinaloa Cartel.
The displaced residents had been asking Zacatecas and federal authorities for assistance for months so they could return to their abandoned homes. One former local criticized the authorities for the operation, saying that their objective should be to recover peace in the town rather than people’s possessions.
“The support they gave was stupid; it was to go for belongings, they gave them six hours to pack up their lives,” Favi told Reforma.
“A man was killed three weeks ago; he and his wife were almost the only ones left. They told the lady she had one hour to leave her home,” the woman said.
“… There’s a photo of the pickup truck of the man they killed, they painted four letters on it,” she said, referring to the infamous CJNG initials. “There are clear signs that sicarios [cartel gunmen] are there [in Palmas Altas]. Some people got to their homes and the stoves were hot, there were plates with food. Someone obviously told them the government was coming and they left,” Favi said.
Another woman who fled Palmas Altas after her boyfriend was abducted and presumably killed said that people left the town because they could no longer sleep.
“They were afraid every night that their father or daughter would be taken. Someone was abducted every night. For what? I don’t know,” Gabriela Rodríguez said.
With reports from Reforma